Sag Harbor Cinema Groundbreaking Scheduled for Saturday

A groundbreaking ceremony will be held Saturday as construction begins on the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center. Kathryn G. Menu photo

The Sag Harbor Cinema’s sequel will be literally set in stone this Saturday, June 16, with a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center planned on Main Street at 2 p.m.

The groundbreaking will be ceremonial on Saturday but will also mark the actual beginning of reconstruction of a reimagined 9,400 square-foot cinema space that will house three individual screening rooms, a gallery, office space and café on three floors.

The Partnership said it hopes to open the new cinema during the summer of 2019.

On Wednesday, Sag Harbor Partnership President and Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center Executive Committee Member Nick Gazzolo said the intention is to pour the foundation of the building during the last two weeks of June to ensure no construction is required on Main Street during the busy summer months of July and August.

“The plan is to get the pilings and foundation work done and seal it from the front,” he said. “Everything can be done from the back of the building at that point. We have met with the [Sag Harbor] Chamber [of Commerce] and have told them we want to do everything we can to reduce the impact of this project on Main Street. We are fortunate in that we have an existing building we can use for storage and for staging.”

“It’s so thrilling to actually start the building process,” said April Gornik, the vice president of the Sag Harbor Partnership and its cinema campaign chair. “We love the metaphor that a new foundation represents.”

A March 2018 rendering of the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center. Image by NK Architects and Croxton Collaborative Architects

The Partnership earned approval to rebuild the former Sag Harbor Cinema from village regulatory boards in April based on designs created by architects Allen Kopelson and Randolph Croxton, members of the Cinema Arts Center’s executive and advisory boards, respectively. According to a press release issued Tuesday, Mr. Kopelson, of NK Architects, has been selected out of multiple bidders as the architect for the new cinema building, which will mimic the iconic Sag Harbor Cinema façade destroyed during a fire that damaged several buildings on Main Street on December 16, 2016. A division of Racanelli Construction, ConRac Construction LLC, has been chosen to manage the first phase of the building process.

“We are reviving the spirit of the old cinema and making it into a state of the art cinematheque,” said Mr. Kopelson. “There is tremendous passion from everyone involved with the project.”

“I have been building projects on the East End and in New York City for 40 years,” building committee chair and Alfa Development CEO Mike Namer said. “I love Sag Harbor and I am excited to bring everything I have learned to make this Main Street project a landmark for the next generation.”

The Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center is envisioned by its board as restoring the tradition established by former cinema owner Gerald Mallow of screening independent, documentary, foreign and art-house films, but also creating opportunities for education and programming around film and film studies. The Sag Harbor Partnership was able to purchase the property, located at 90 Main Street, in January from Mr. Mallow for $8 million — a purchase made possible through an ambitious fundraising campaign that brought donations in from private residents, local businesses and celebrities like Billy Joel. The Partnership learned in December of 2017 that it had been awarded a $1.4 million Empire State Economic Development Grant from the state that paved the way for the non-profit to purchase the property outright, and move forward with fundraising for the estimated $6 million it needs to construct the center. It has a goal of raising $3 million by July 1, according to a press release issued Tuesday, and has already received $1.5 million in donations.

On Saturday, it is expected that elected officials including Sag Harbor Village Mayor Sandra Schroeder, New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming will be joined by East End town supervisors and community leaders at the groundbreaking.

“With the groundbreaking for the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center, another milestone has been reached in the community effort to restore and revitalize our village’s beloved movie theater,” Mr. Thiele said. “The partnership is raising our cinema from the ashes to new heights by restoring the best of the old, while providing us with a future filled with new cultural opportunities for Sag Harbor and residents across the East End. This project represents not just an enrichment of the arts and culture that are a cornerstone of the Sag Harbor community, but also a vital part of an economic development and job creation strategy which depends on a vibrant downtown. Every Sag Harbor business will benefit from the project.”